The Performance Model In The 2018 Softail Lineup

Harley-Davidson’s Fat Bob is one of only a few [Dyna1760] models that made the crossover into the all-new 2018 Softail lineup. Its popularity as an FXD played heavily into that decision, and it looks like the factory is doubling down on more of the same modern-custom/bobber vibe that endeared it to its fans. Heavily bobbed and blacked-out, the Fat Bob comes with a choice between the 107-inch Milwaukee-Eight and the 114-inch version along with a (relatively) sporty new suspension system, all of which gives the Fat Bob an aggressive bent that is meant to appeal to a younger generation of rider. Will it be enough? Time will tell, and with the overall decline of motorcycling, models that grab the Millennials’ attention may help prop up the MoCo until the next gen comes of age or, at least, until the pendulum swings back the other way.

Continue reading for my review of the Harley-Davidson Fat Bob.

Design

2018 Harley-Davidson Fat Bob
- image 765109
Maximum lean angles have increased this year so it will lean further than most cruiser riders are willing to go. Only a true fiery-eyed pegdragger is likely to run into clearance issues in the sweeps.

Obviously, the move from the FXD frame to the FXST brings with it a host of changes. As with the other Softails, there is a certain amount of age-ambiguity with the Fat Bob’s lines by virtue of its faux-hardtail frame that cuts an entirely different figure altogether. While the previous gen had a definite ’60s to ’70s vibe to it, the lines of the new gen could hail back as far as 1949, or as recently as 1984 when the original Softail was launched.

Harley has reached into custom territory yet again, but this time, it was going for an entirely modern look rather than shooting for the custom culture of yesteryear as it did with the Softail Slim, for instance. The fenders are cut back to the bone, and the absolute limits of functionality, with the Yamaka-size front fender and rear fender that just barely catches the struts for an unimpeded view of the rear hoop. A tapered p-pad joins the solo saddle for two-up capability, at least on paper. Yeah, it looks cool, but you won’t want to put anyone on it that you care about very much.

The peculiar twin-headlight setup was replaced by a modern interpretation of the classic headlight nacelle that uses a trapezoid-shaped opening to house a set of powerful LED headlights. Blackout treatment makes it onto this newfangled nacelle that all but disappears against the blackdrop of the risers, bar, mirrors, tripletree and inverted fork stanchions. When the factory shoehorned the Mil-8 engine into the frame, it dropped the much-maligned “ham-can” air cleaner in favor of a smaller round breather that shares the blackout treatment and chrome trim with the engine for a nice continuity of design that also gives your right leg a little break. Sportster and old-school Big-Twin riders, you know what I’m talking about.

An upswept exhaust system comes with full-length heat shielding with a kick at the muffler end that lends the Fat Bob a certain air of performance even if the forward controls are actually the limiting factor to cornering. That said, maximum lean angles have increased this year with 31 degrees of lean to the right, and 32 to the left, so it will lean further than most cruiser riders are willing to go. Only a true fiery-eyed pegdragger is likely to run into clearance issues in the sweeps on this thing.

Chassis

2018 Harley-Davidson Fat Bob
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Along with the newfound agility, you can still count on a certain amount of stability with decent tracking.

Tubular-steel members make up the all-new Softail frame, just as they always have. In the first update since Y2K and largest change since its 1984 release, the factory chopped out 50-percent of the frame members while managing to increase stiffness and handling. That last is a pretty big deal since Softails have ever had a poor reputation for handling and cornering performance, so anything that adds some fun and comfort is a good thing. The steering head kicks the forks out to 28 degrees for a bit of rake, and 5.2 inches of trail, so along with the newfound agility you can still count on a certain amount of stability with decent tracking.

Up front, inverted forks further bolster the sporty looks of the bike while providing greater strength and better damping profiles, but unfortunately come sans adjustment so they are almost as vanilla as ever. The rear monoshock rides under the seat with a hand-adjustable preload feature that allows for easier adjustments than we had back in the day with the old under-tranny shocks that forced you to get down and wallow around with a spanner every time you had to adjust for changing cargo and passenger weight.

Blackout rims mount the 16-inch hoops with a fat 150/80 up front and 180/70 out back, and though I think laced rims might look a bit better, it probably wouldn’t matter given that the dual front brake discs all but completely occlude the spokes. ABS is optional on the base model but standard equipment on the 114, and Harley left its linked-brakes business where it belongs: on the shelf. Unladen seat height rides at 28-inches high; a skosh tall for a Softail, but still lower than most cruiser imports.

Rake (steering head) (deg): 28
Trail: 5.2 in.
Lean Angle, Right/Left (deg.): 31/32
Wheels, Front & Rear: Denim black, Structure cast aluminum with laser etched graphics
Brakes, Caliper Type: 4-piston fixed front and 2-piston floating rear
Tires, Front Specification: 150/80-16,71H,BW
Tires, Rear Specification: 180/70B16,77H,BW

Drivetrain

2018 Harley-Davidson Fat Bob
- image 765131
The Milwaukee-Eight provides the strongest roll-on in both fifth and sixth gear, so you can make passes with more authority than ever.

I’m told that black is very slimming, and that seems to be true with the blackout Mil-8 engines that seem to blend into the background. Don’t be fooled; these engines are big enough to have smaller engines in orbit around them. I mean, they’re a real chunk, but they’d have to be to contain that displacement, yeah? The 107 cubic-inch version runs a 100 mm bore and 111 mm stroke while the 114 sports a 102 mm bore and 114.3 mm stroke with a 10-to-1 and 10.5-to-1 compression ratio, respectively.

Electronic fuel injection delivers the dino-juice, but we still have nothing in the way of TC or variable power delivery and that’s getting harder to forgive as we see relatively inexpensive imports coming in with all that and more. Harley’s only saving grace is that its main domestic competitor, Indian Motorcycle under the Polaris umbrella, has yet to cleave to such fandanglery, but the race is on.

Always torquey, the Mil-8 plants take H-D engines to a new level with 107 pound-feet of torque from the 107 and 118 pounds from the 114. Not only does this give you the stump-pulling power you expect, but it also provides the strongest roll-on in both fifth and sixth gear, so you can make passes with more authority than ever.

The six-speed transmixxer crunches the ratios and sends power to the rear wheel via a quiet belt drive that is not only tough (I’ve yet to break one, personally) but easy to maintain. A balancer in the engine helps attenuate much of the engine vibration. It shakes a bit at idle (as it should) but as soon as you crack the throttle it smooths right out. Perhaps too much? Maybe, but you’ll get used to it.

Model: Fat Bob Fat Bob 114
Engine: Milwaukee-Eight® 107 Milwaukee-Eight® 114
Bore x Stroke: 3.937 in. x 4.374 in. 4.016 in. x 4.5 in.
Displacement: 107 cu in 114 cu in
Compression Ratio: 10.0:1 10.5:1
Engine Torque (J1349): 107 lb-ft @ 3,500 rpm 118 lb-ft @ 3,500 rpm
Fuel System: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI) Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
Exhaust: 2-into-1-into-2 dual side; catalyst in header 2-into-1-into-2 dual side; catalyst in header

Pricing

2018 Harley-Davidson Fat Bob
- image 765120
MSRP starts at $17k for the base model in basic black.

You can score a 2018 Fat Bob 107 in Vivid Black for $16,999 or go for the color option for $17,399 and ABS for another $795. The 114 understandably fetches a premium with a $18,699 sticker on the basic black and $19,099 tag on the color option. ABS is standard on the 114, and the security system is standard equipment across the board. West Coast brothers and sisters, alas, you can look forward to buying a special $200 emissions package just for you.

Model: Fat Bob Fat Bob 114
Colors: Vivid Black, Black Denim, Red Iron Denim, Bonneville Salt Denim Vivid Black, Black Denim, Red Iron Denim, Bonneville Salt Denim, Industrial Gray Denim
Pricing:
Vivid Black: $16,999 $18,699
Color: $17,399 $19,099
ABS Option: $795 Standard
Security System Option: Standard Standard

Competitors

2016 - 2018 Ducati XDiavel / XDiavel S
- image 695104
2015 - 2017 Yamaha Raider
- image 729160
The competition will certainly be appealing to shoppers with no H-D-brand loyalty as yet.

Gotta say, it was tough to find something to go head-to-head with Harley’s new Dyna-turned-Softail. I see folks throwing the Ducati XDiavel around a lot, but I ain’t seein’ it unless you count the fact that they’re both cruisers with forward controls. Sorry folks, but the XDiavel is just an Italian crotch rocket with the footpegs in the wrong place, and people riding look like they’re trying to turn Power Ranger into Easy Rider. Not only does it not work, it isn’t likely to appeal to someone who is looking hard at a Fat Bob. It falls short on power at only 93 pounds o’ grunt though the electronics are far and away superior to what Harley brings to the table, suspension too.

Next, I looked at the Star Raider from Yamaha. The looks are similar in that both embrace the custom culture though the Raider goes for the raked-and-stretched look opposed to the Fat Bob’s chopped-and-bobbed build. The power figures show that Yamaha has something going on over there; namely a claimed 123 pound-foot output that shames H-D’s new 107 and 114 Mil-8. Yamaha compounds the pain with a $15,199 ticket that will certainly be appealing to shoppers with no MoCo loyalty as yet, and that may be enough of a difference to buy some business away from Harley.

He Said

“If I’m honest, I’ll admit that I didn’t like the FXD version, and I’m only marginally more in favor of the new version. Don’t get me wrong; chopped and bobbed is great, but I feel is an artistic expression that should be done in a garage with sweat and love (not necessarily in that order) not something you roll off the showroom floor. Yeah, I know the kids nowadays lack the skills, tools and experience (for the most part) to do it themselves, but I kinda feel like if you want to buy one of these, just go ahead and get the dealership to sew the patches on your vest, too.”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “The Fat Bob is the performance-driven model in the Softail lineup for 2018. Yeah, it has a p-pad, but it isn’t comfortable, so consider this a solo ride. I like the headlamp, which is unique to the Fat Bob this year. It’s more of a Mad Max look than the other Softails. The forward controls have been moved back a little this year on the Fat Bob and so the riding position is much more comfortable for shorter riders than on previous model years. I mention what is and isn’t comfortable, but honestly, the seat is more sportbike-like in its hardness, so don’t consider this a long-distance ride.”

Specifications

Engine & Drivetrain:
Engine: Milwaukee-Eight® 107 (Milwaukee-Eight® 114)
Bore: 3.937 in. (4.016 in.)
Stroke : 4.374 in. (4.5 in.)
Displacement: 107 cu in (114 cu in)
Compression Ratio: 10.0:1 (10.5:1)
Engine Torque (J1349): 107 lb-ft @ 3,500 rpm (118 lb-ft @ 3,500 rpm)
Fuel System: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
Exhaust: 2-into-1-into-2 dual side; catalyst in header
Primary Drive: Chain, 34/46 ratio
Gear Ratios (overall) 1st: 9.311
Gear Ratios (overall) 2nd: 6.454
Gear Ratios (overall) 3rd: 4.793
Gear Ratios (overall) 4th: 3.882
Gear Ratios (overall) 5th: 3.307
Gear Ratios (overall) 6th: 2.79
Chassis:
Rake (steering head) (deg): 28
Trail: 5.2 in.
Lean Angle, Right (deg.): 31
Lean Angle, Left (deg.): 32
Wheels, Front Type: Denim black, Structure cast aluminum with laser etched graphics
Wheels, Rear Type: Denim black, Structure cast aluminum with laser etched graphics
Brakes, Caliper Type: 4-piston fixed front and 2-piston floating rear
Tires, Front Specification: 150/80-16,71H,BW
Tires, Rear Specification: 180/70B16,77H,BW
Dimensions & Capacities:
Length: 92.1 in.
Seat Height, Laden: 27.7 in.
Seat Height, Unladen: 28 in.
Ground Clearance: 4.7 in.
Wheelbase: 63.6 in.
Fuel Capacity: 3.6 gal.
Oil Capacity (w/filter): 5 qt.
Weight, As Shipped: 653 lb.
Weight, In Running Order: 673 lb. (676 lb.)
Electric:
Lights (as per country regulation), Indicator Lamps: High beam, turn signals, neutral, low oil pressure, engine diagnostics, ABS (optional), security, low battery voltage, low fuel
Gauges: 4 inch analog tachometer with digital speedometer, gear, odometer, fuel level, clock, trip and range indication
Details:
Fuel Economy: Estimated City/Hwy: 47 mpg
Colors: Vivid Black, Black Denim, Red Iron Denim, Bonneville Salt Denim, (also: Industrial Gray Denim)
Pricing:
Vivid Black: $16,999 ($18,699)
Color: $17,399 ($19,099)
ABS Option: $795 (Standard)
Security System Option: Standard ( Standard)

References

Ducati XDiavel

2016 - 2018 Ducati XDiavel / XDiavel S
- image 695087

See our review of the Ducati XDiavel.

Yamaha Star Raider

2015 - 2017 Yamaha Raider
- image 712697

See our review of the Yamaha Star Raider.

All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Image Source: harley-davidson.com, yamaha-motor.com, ducatiusa.com

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